ProtonMail disappointed users by revealing the IP address of a young activist who took part in the protests

Swiss e-mail provider ProtonMail said it was forced to reveal the IP address of one of its users after receiving a legally binding order from the Swiss government which the company could not complain about or refuse.

The incident, which came to light over the weekend, caused dissatisfaction among users because ProtonMail bragged about its “no-log” policy several times in its marketing campaigns.

However, in a comment on Reddit and in a blog post, ProtonMail said the Swiss authorities had cornered them.

The incident is linked to a series of anti-gentrification protests that took place in Paris in the summer and autumn of 2020, when a group of activists called “Youth for Climate” forcibly occupied numerous apartments and business premises, in protest against companies buying real estate and increase rental prices for the local population up to four times.

Although members of the group were anonymous, one of them used an email address [email protected] in online posts. This attracted the attention of the French police, who tried to identify the persons connected with this order.

As ProtonMail is headquartered in Switzerland, the company is not obliged to respond to a request from France or the EU. But the requests of the Swiss courts still apply to her, so the French police used that opportunity and submitted the request to the court in Switzerland through Europol. After the court approved the request, ProtonMail began recording the IP addresses on the account, and later this information was handed over to the French police, which led to the identification and arrest of the activist.

“In this case, Proton has received a legally binding order from the Swiss Federal Ministry of Justice, which we are obliged to abide by,” a ProtonMail spokesman wrote on Reddit.

“There was no legal possibility to resist this request or to fight it,” said ProtonMile CEO Andy Jen. “Under Swiss law, it is also mandatory for the suspect to be informed that his data has been requested, which is not the case in most countries,” he added.

However, the executive director of ProtonMail said that the accompanying order prevented the company from revealing this incident to the user while the investigation was ongoing.

“The prosecution was very aggressive in this case. “Unfortunately, this is a pattern that has become increasingly visible in recent years around the world.”

Jen said the court order did not include the content of e-mails that were encrypted and that ProtonMail could not access. He also said that email and VPN services in Switzerland are treated differently and that the authorities cannot use the same court order to force the company to do something similar for its ProtonVPN.

This incident left a bitter taste in the mouths of most users of the company’s services who expected ProtonMail to have mechanisms to prevent such identification.

Given that several groups working with ransomware have misused ProtonMile addresses, most users are upset that the Swiss authorities have decided to help the investigation involving the activist, without trying something similar in cases of cybercrime and blackmail. .

Source: by

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